African Americans

African AmericansHistorical and contemporary researchers agree that the mismatch between the learning styles of African-American students and the pedagogical and behavioral styles of schools and educators contribute greatly to the low achievement in mathematics and science of African-American students. Allen and Boykin (1991) state that these mismatches lead educators to greatly underestimate the intellectual capabilities of African-American students. This is especially seen when one considers language and behavior issues (Cazden, John, & Hymes, 1972): African-American males are often attributed with high unwanted physical activity in the classroom that leads to high grade-level retentions, placement in special education classes, and increased negative discipline. Hilliard (1976) suggests that if schools expect to increase the academic achievement of African-American students, they must become much more flexible in school culture and that the culture of the schools must learn how to accommodate the diverse learning styles of these students.

Slavin (1977) has shown that African-American students appear to achieve at high levels when allowed to learn in cooperative groups. Boykin (1994) found that African-American students work well in cooperative groups and learn more new material where there is no reward system and where there is intrinsic value only, unlike many white students who expect rewards to be given for work simply done. Ladson-Billings' (1992) work on culturally responsive pedagogy attributes these elements to the cultural norms and socialization influences of African-American culture. Sizemore (1988) has shown that there are organizational features, academic routines, qualities of leadership, and staff support that, if followed, will end in high achievement for African-American students consistently. When surveyed, African-American parents shared this understanding when they overwhelmingly stated that they send their students to African-American independent schools mainly because of the learning environment.

Biculturalism is a second factor that impedes the high academic achievement in mathematics and science because of its links to language and literacy. Research that has focused on the practical implications of biculturalism for educational settings appears to have several categories all based on a deficit model of interpretation and analyses of the effects of African-American biculturalism on high academic achievement. Analyses now show that the mismatch between the language of the school and the language of students are not deficit but different. White educators, in general, find it difficult, at best, to understand the logic to black students' discourse and therefore are unable to adequately coach/mentor students. Hyron and Sulzby (1994) found these attributes to be rooted in African-American linguistic traditions. Lee (2001, 2000a, 2000b) promotes the idea of using cultural modeling to enhance instructional discourse of content in general. Delpit (1986, 1988) warned that misunderstandings often occur in classrooms when teachers use an indirect communicative and teaching style with African-American students consequently truncating the learning experience of the students. Ogbu (1987) and Fordham (1988) argue that African-American students often appear to have an oppositional attitude toward school and learning because they attach the utilization of school language to "acting white," thereby participating in denial of their own language and culture. How and what language is used in school has been a detriment for academic achievement of African-American students. However, the Algebra Project, founded by Bob Moses (Moses & Cobb, 2001); the work of Uri Treisman at the University of California at Berkeley helping African-American students achieve in calculus (Fullilove & Treisman, 1990); and the historical work being done at Clark-Atlanta University (Hilliard, 1991; Kostelecky, 1992) by Abdulalim Shabazz are exemplary evidences of successful learning of mathematics by African-American students.

Ogbu (2003) recommends that the community establish more supplementary after-school and weekend opportunities on a for-profit and nonprofit basis to help African-American students. The community also needs to utilize its Black History Month to promote the value of academic success and role models of academic achievers, not just athletes and music entertainers. It could utilize programs already set up through other cultural organizations (e.g., NAACP) to recognize the accomplishments of African-American students in academic subjects. Moreover, the community must insist upon the inclusion of multicultural curriculum to prevent students from equating school success with acting white and to enhance their self-esteem, increase self-awareness, and interracial understanding while making learning relevant to their lives and increasing their academic achievement. Parents must become more knowledgeable about what their children are learning and how they are doing. Then they must teach their child how to work hard and persevere